Variety is the spice of life and there’s no place where that’s truer than in your diet.
Habitually choosing convenient Pret a Manger salads or Starbucks oatmeal will likely, eventually sabotage your health goals. Monotony and boredom are the death nell to a healthy, sustainable diet. Creating variety is the key to staying on track while journeying to your healthiest self.
Trying new recipes is one way to enliven your diet, as is scanning menus for alternatives instead of always getting the same thing. Another, more interesting way is to walk through your local farmer’s market and find foods you’ve never tasted before. Once home, search on-line for preparation ideas, and begin adding different and nutritious foods to your repertoire.
Last week I visited Lani’s Farm stand at my local farmer’s market and found a plethora of unusual foods that spiked my curiosity. As I browsed, Ming-Ju, Lani’s talented chef who diligently cooks a variety of stir-fries with their unique offerings, handed me a cup of ginger-turmeric tea she was brewing. Delicious.
As we chatted, she mentioned their farm is “beyond organic” meaning they use techniques that go above the government guidelines. They also cultivate unusual produce you’re not likely to find at your local grocer. I stocked up and here they are… I hope you enjoy learning about these wonderful vegetables and products and that they find their way into your kitchen this Fall.
The benefits of ginger and turmeric are well documented. Both have anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to protect against cancer and other illnesses. They’re also great during cold and flu season to help keep your immunity strong.
To make this tea, finely chop or grate 2-3 inches of each root and add to a quart of water. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain and serve with a squeeze of lemon and if needed, half-teaspoon of raw honey. It’s delicious and healthy!
Roasted or Steamed Taro
Taro is a root vegetable similar to white potatoes, but with greater benefits.
It has more dietary fiber than potatoes, which enhances satiety, along with a lower glycemic response, both of which are important for stabilizing blood sugar. Like potatoes, it’s a great source of potassium but it’s also a nice source of calcium, manganese and copper along with key vitamins C and B. According to Ming-Ju, it’s also great for your skin.
If you struggle with constipation, consider adding Taro to your diet. Its fiber content can be helpful.
Roasted Garlic and Lemon Taro
- 5 Taro root
- ¼ cup garbanzo bean flour
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- Few leaves fresh basil, chopped
- Olive oil for coating and roasting
- ½ fresh Lemon
- Steam the taro for about 5 minutes to make it easier to peel. Make sure you do not over steam them because they’ll get mushy. You can also skip this step and just peel them, although this will make it take longer to roast. Peel taro, rinse and dry. Toss with some olive oil until well coated.
- Mix garbanzo bean flour, salt and basil together. Toss the taro in this mixture until coated. Toss in the garlic and mix well.
- In an enamel skillet, add olive oil. Add taro mixture and cover. This allows the taro to steam through. Check for doneness with a fork. It should easily go through, like a potato.
- When cooked through, increase temperature and add a little more olive oil. Roast until crispy.
- Serve sprinkled with lemon juice. Serves about 4 people as a side dish.
- Peel and steam the taro in a vegetable steamer until fork tender.
- While taro is steaming, make the sauce:
- Saute garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add ¼ teaspoon Himalayan salt (or to taste). Saute until garlic begins to brown. Add the juice of one whole lemon and make a sauce. Add fresh chopped basil.
- When Taro is done, toss in the garlic-lemon mixture until well coated. Sprinkle with fresh basil to serve and a nice sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.
Jerusalem Artichokes aka: Sunchokes
These amazing tubers are a wonderful source of Inulin (not to be confused with “insulin”), a dietary fiber that contains pre-biotics, which in turn enhance gut flora. Although a starch, they have a much slower insulin response than other starches such as potatoes, making it a nice option for diabetics. Sunchokes contain insoluble fibers, which draw more water into the colon making it a natural laxative. If you tend towards any GI upset though, eating these in large quantities may cause discomfort and gas so use caution.
They’re also a nice source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and can be eaten raw or cooked. I slice them up into my soups, and add them to roasted vegetables or stir-fries.
Here’s a soup I came up with a few years ago that’s a staple in my winter kitchen.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, chopped (I leave the skin on, but you can peel if you prefer…same with the potato below)
- 1 medium potato, chopped
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- White truffle oil
- In a soup pot, sauté onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft. Add artichokes and potatoes and continue sautéing for a few minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt and broth. If the vegetables are not covered then add water until they are covered with liquid. Lower heat to simmer and allow to simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes (test with a fork). In batches, using a slotted spoon transfer vegetables to blender and blend until soft and creamy consistency is achieved. Be careful when blending hot liquid.
- Adjust flavor for salt and pepper to preference. Ladle into bowls and then top off with a couple of drops of white truffle oil.
** If you have any gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or IBS, use less sunchokes and more potatoes.
Squash Seed Oil: Tomato-Avocado-Walnut-Basil Salad
I have amazing clients and sometimes they bring me gifts! This was a thank you from Sam and Barry who found it at their local artisanal shop in Northern Connecticut. I love this oil! First taste note is chocolate followed by a subtle nutty quality. According to the proprietor of the shop, it’s high in unsaturated fats and is a source of essential fatty acids including linoleic and oleic acids. One serving of squash oil provides 40% of the RDA of Vitamin E and contains antioxidants like lutein, and zeaxanthin. It has anti-arthritic properties and can help kidney and prostate function. It also helps to boost HDL (good) cholesterol. The seeds to make this oil are grown from local, non-GMO seeds in the Finger Lakes of NY. You can enjoy it drizzled on fruit such as strawberries, mangos or avocado, sprinkled with sea salt or you can use in sauteed asparagus, Brussel sprouts, kale or spinach. You can also drizzle on wintery soups or use in muffin recipes. Another option is to drizzle on grilled fish.
I used it to make this tasty tomato-avocado-walnut-basil salad, which enhanced my vegetable omelet tenfold. Chop some tomatoes, avocado and basil, mix with walnuts, a little squash oil and Himalaya salt, then serve!
For more information on this oil, go to: nutmegoliveoil.com